Endless endless cropping -- why?

Discussion in 'Scenic, Architecture, and Travel' started by crossen, Aug 29, 2014.

  1. crossen

    crossen Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 26, 2014
    I notice that the vast majority, about 80 percent, of my travel photos need cropping. The cropping is often very substantial and the cropped photo is usually considerably better than the original.

    I use an Oly EM10 and I took only the Pan 20mm and the Oly 45mm to Rome and Capri.

    I am wondering whether what I am experiencing is normal or whether I am doing something wrong.

    Does this situation imply that I should use a zoom instead?

  2. magkelly

    magkelly Mu-43 Regular

    Nov 11, 2012
    It suggests that you're not aware of filling your frame well enough when you shoot. A zoom could help, yes, but regardless you need to move in and make it tighter. Make sure that most of your VF or LCD has your subject in it. If you can see tons of stuff around the center of your subject likely you're not focusing in close enough to your subject. You're too far away, have the lens set at too wide a setting for what you want, are using too wide a prime etc.
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  3. yakky

    yakky Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jul 1, 2013
    Usually your feet can do as a great replacement for a zoom. That said, are you thinking about your composure and what you'd like to tell the viewer BEFORE you take the picture?
  4. Art

    Art Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 13, 2011
    San Francisco, CA
    zoom is a must for travel.
  5. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 13, 2014
    Central Ohio, USA
    Real Name:
    Agree with the above.

    You can improve the quality of your images by worrying more about the edges of your frame. If you find a great subject, the middle of the frame is there, but a sure way to ruin a good subject is to not have good supporting structures in your frame edges.

    Some quotes from Jay Maisel that have helped me:
    "Be aware of every square millimeter of your frame."
    “You are responsible for every part of your image, even the parts you’re not interested in.”
    "The center is going to work, look at the edge and make sure there is nothing there to screw up the picture"
    • Like Like x 1
  6. Cruzan80

    Cruzan80 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 23, 2012
    Denver, Co
    Real Name:
    Sean Rastsmith
    Where do you travel and what are the style pf pictures that need cropping? Sometimws zooming with your feet isnt an option (on a boat, high tower, etc.). If you find yourself conatantly cropping and there wasnt a way to get closer, a longer lens is a better answer.

    Sent from my LG-P769 using Mu-43 mobile app
  7. RobWatson

    RobWatson Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Upon reflection our goals change ... so we crop.
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  8. gpburdell

    gpburdell Mu-43 Veteran

    Jul 16, 2014
    Echoing much of what went above, I'll add that in the digital age many forget (or never learn) the valuable habit of composing the image in your mind before you ever bring the camera to bear. Once upon a time it cost real money every time you released the shutter. With the freedom to shoot digital without per-exposure costs I think many forget to pause and consider the desired result first.

    Craft your images consciously, pausing to consider them even before raising the camera to your eye. Would composition be better if you were closer, or to one side. How does the subject interact with or fit into the background (is there a tree sticking out of her head). Could you hide that distracting sign behind a tree by merely stepping to the left? This sort of stuff. Then bring up the camera, make sure you're holding it level, adjust your exposure appropriately, compose the framing, and release the shutter.
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  9. nuclearboy

    nuclearboy Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 28, 2011
    Ellicott City, MD
    Real Name:
    Nothing wrong with cropping if you are leaving enough pixels. Shooting primes takes more time to setup and sometimes you cannot move back or forward enough. Crop it and you are all set. The end result is what matters. You could get the 12-40mm prime and crop more in the field but that is a big change in size from your 20mm pancake.

    I have the zoom and still end up cropping some at home to make it "better" to my eyes. You have more time to contemplate a crop once you are home vs in the field. Especially if you have other travelers that you don't want to hold back while you play with the camera.
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  10. dwig

    dwig Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 26, 2010
    Key West FL
    Yes, normal in that a lot of novice photographers make the mistakes you are making.

    Yes, you are not paying attention to the viewfinder's complete mage and comparing that to you mental image of what is interesting in the scene. You are ending up with images that don't match what you "saw".

    It appears you are using terminology/jargon incorrectly. From the description of your problem it seems you are using "zoom" to mean "longer focal length", or "telephoto" (though "telephoto" is technically incorrect terminology while it is correct in common jargon).

    Yes, you should be using a longer focal length lens if the cropped images have the perspective you want. Moving closer to frame tighter will alter the perspective which may be an improvement and may not be. Every image is different.

    A "zoom" lens is one that varies in focal length, and technically doesn't shift focus as is changes. If focus shifts it is technically a "varifocal". Either way, such lenses can cover wide angle focal lengths, roughtly "normal" focal lengths, long/telephoto focal lengths or any combination of these. What may be the best for the situation you describe is one that zooms from a modest wide angle (~14mm) to a longer FL than the modest 45mm you currently have (~140mm). Otherwise you could add a long zoom (~45-150mm or such) to your current kit.
  11. crossen

    crossen Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 26, 2014
    I am impressed with the consensus that I should take the time to compose the image better, and that a zoom is a good way to exclude distracting material from the edges of the image. Zooming with a lens or with my feet have been suggested. I think these are good suggestions.

    Some have asked what kind of things I am photographing when I travel and whether it is practical to zoom with my feet in these situations, for example a distant lighthouse. This is astute.

    My problem is that I am mostly photographing situations in which there are people. It's an effort to get the ambience of urban settings, in cities in Europe. Because people are constantly either moving or changing facial expressions, I have almost no time to compose.

    I haven't tried a zoom but I think zooming would slow me up a bit, perhaps enough to lose the spontaneous image, or perhaps it would be feasible, there might be enough time before the people moved or changed expression. The only zoom that has the very high quality I want and is still very small is the Pan 12-32mm, and I could think about getting this.

    A couple of people have suggested using a longer lens. I used the Pan 20 in Rome and Capri and the images are fine but almost all need some cropping. I took along my Oly 45mm but in retrespect I didn't use it nearly enough. I am thinking of using the 45mm as my walk around lens instead of the 20mm.

    A concern I have about using the 20 or some other wide angle lens as my main travel lens, as many people do, because all the results will have the same near-on wide angle point of view, and this sameness can get boring.

    So at this point I am thinking of getting the 12-32m Pan or using my existing Oly 45mm as my walk around lens.

  12. pake

    pake Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 14, 2010
    Real Name:
    I think I crop about 95% of my pictures. I like to think I have all the time in the world when I'm "producing" the picture in post process. When I'm taking the shot there's not usually that much time.

    And I think I was "forced" into cropping by using the prime lenses but I still do it with my 12-40mm and 100-300mm lenses. I don't mind it but obviously the IQ would be better if I didn't (have to) crop at all...
    • Like Like x 3
  13. Drdave944

    Drdave944 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 2, 2012
    Yes,great idea,but most scenes flow rapidly. Even if landscape is being photographed ,the clouds or the light cast by shifting clouds could change. You have to be ready or at least lucky. And darn ,some things just don't photograph as well as you thought. And another thing,there should be a law against power lines and light poles for every 50 feet. But otherwise just crop and Photoshop.
  14. RichardB

    RichardB Snapshooter

    Nov 19, 2012
    Maryland, US
    Real Name:
    Cropping was difficult in the days of film photography, but it's a standard part of my digital workflow. There's nothing wrong with it, as long as the cropped version has sufficient resolution for the desired output, be that a print or a jpeg.

    It's always good to be attentive to the whole frame when taking photos. When you're shooting candid photos of people, though, you need to get the photo first and worry about the exact frame lines later.

    Since I'm happy to crop, I think of a longer focal length not as making the subject more prominent, but as narrowing the background. A change in focal length changes the relative sizes of foreground and background. Use different focal lengths to suit your artistic purposes, not just to replace cropping.
    • Like Like x 1
  15. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    a lot of good advice here on this thread....

    I am lucky to travel quite bit, and I have found over the last couple of years that I can live quite happily with just a couple of primes. I carry the 17, the 25 and the 75, though truth be told I could get away with just the 17 and the 75. I do sometimes now take my 50-200 lens on trips if i know I will be shooting things like wildlife, but I tend to use that just as a 200mm lens. I have always found that I used zooms only at their extreme ends of their range, seldom in the middle.

    I like to shoot quickly, so therefore cropping in PP is an important part of the process to me....other photographers prefer a more studied approach at the time of shooting and aim to not crop the shot afterwards, and this is a valid way of working as well.

    As examples of how I work here are a couple of albums of travel stuff - the tokyo one was shot with just the 17, 25 and 75


    as were these sets from LA



    A zoom is not a 'must' - it may work for you, but nothing beats getting just getting closer to your subject, and filling the frame with what you want to capture

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  16. Rudy

    Rudy Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 24, 2013
    Oakland, CA
    If you "find your view" with a view finder, then a zoom would be the way to go in my opinion. That is you position yourself to get the perspective, start out wide and then zoom in to crop. However this sort of assumes that you walk around with the camera glued to your forehead which is a bit inconvenient.
    If you instead walk around like normal people and find your images with your eyes, then you might have an easier time seeing interesting photo opportunities for certain fields of view.
    In my case, I have a very hard time seeing the 17mm lens equivalent. It's just a bit too wide to capture it in my mind without having to scan around with my eyes, so my natural view is more like a 25mm lens (the 20mm also works as it leaves a bit of air...)
    Other focal lengths require a bit more work in the composition and that means time which you might not have when the scene is changing rapidly. Longer lenses are easier than wide ones in this regard as they just exclude more. Wide lenses are best composed in the viewfinder or on the LCD.
    p.s. My personal opinions are not meant to be interpreted as laws of nature
  17. agentlossing

    agentlossing Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jun 26, 2013
    Real Name:
    Andrew Lossing
    I think you might have a different vision sitting at the computer than you did in the field. I've experienced this as well - hindsight is always 20/20, and if you're cropping that probably says that you are more into getting certain features of the scene than getting the scene in its entirety. That's no bad thing, it may be telling you that you're a longer focal length guy. There's plenty of them about. I don't understand them as I am a wider fellow myself, but telephoto lenses capture some amazing stuff. Maybe experiment, you can often find cheap 35mm long lenses which you could adapt and play around with...
  18. DHart

    DHart Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2010
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    Real Name:
    Cropping is the creative image maker's best tool!

    For me, each image I make requires a unique crop. Trying to force an image into a predetermined aspect ratio compromises the image. Sometimes (rarely) an image will work in a pre-set aspect ratio, but usually is improved with a custom crop.

    If one is forced to print in a fixed aspect ratio, you just have to compromise your crop fit as best as you can.

    These days, all of the printing I do is in custom aspect ratios uniquely fit to each particular image.

    Of course, for viewing on digital displays, custom aspect ratios are taken for granted and should always be used to suit each image ideally.

    Compose as carefully as possible at time of exposure, with the end result in mind! (Use the image frame scanning procedure mentioned earlier in this thread.) And then, in post, crop as appropriate.

    Lastly, don't forget that an unusual aspect ratio can also bring tremendous impact/drama to an image! For me the typical 4/3, 8/10, etc. aspect ratios are quite often incredibly boring.
  19. meyerweb

    meyerweb Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Sep 5, 2011
    Most people, especially when they're starting out in photography, tend to concentrate on the middle of the frame, and ignore the edges. Good, experienced photographers realize you need to focus (no pun intended) on the edges of the frame just as much as the center.

    When you concentrate only on the subject, you tend not to notice how much empty space there is around it. Train yourself to move your eye all around the frame. Look at the relationship between the subject and the surrounding area, and the surrounding area and the edges of the frame. Once you do that your composition is bound to improve. When you notice that your subject is really only a tiny part of the entire image, you'll move closer.

    That said, sometimes you can't move closer, and a 20 and 45 aren't really suited for grabbing shots of even slightly distant subjects. Depending on what and where you're shooting, you may need a longer lens. The idea of your feet replacing a zoom doesn't work very well if there's a fence, or a river, or the edge of the Grand Canyon in front of you.

    Finally, you don't always want to crop tightly. Showing the area around your subject can give context that's lost in a close up. Showing foreground can add depth to an image, especially if you shoot from close to the ground. Experiment with different shooting positions and angles and see what you like best.

    Oh, one more thought: Just because you mount a zoom lens doesn't mean you always have to zoom before taking an image. Set it to the focal length that you think is going to work in the situation you're in, giving yourself a little leeway for later cropping. That way you can grab a quick shot when you don't have time to zoom, but still have the flexibility to change the focal length when you want and have time to.